Soloing With The Neck Pickup

Posted: February 28, 2016 in Guitar
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I was watching the Steve Morse Rig Rundown at Premiere Guitar.  Steve stated that he uses the Neck pickup to solo in the higher pitches, so it isn’t as sharp on a person’s eardrums.  I’d never really thought of it in that way and not used it in that way very often.  So, I tried it out repeatedly.

I have to say, I hate the neck pickup for rhythm work.  The sound gets flabby and undefined.  However, when playing from the 7th to 24th frets, it has a couple of advantages over the bridge pickup, depending on what is needed.

The first advantage is the placement of the pickup.  Because it sits at a very well chosen spot where there is an abundance of overtones,  a heavily distorted sound gets a thicker, “wavy” sound that is smooth.  It sounds really massive and sings.  Pushing this with a boost makes it bloom into an even greater amount of overtones, which will crash into each other and produce a natural wave-like sound.  It also makes higher pitched notes much more tolerable than the bridge pickup could ever allow.

The second is more of a style-specific one: this is a great choice for the Blues or variations thereof.  Distortion content is softened by comparison to the bridge pickup and it’s easier to achieve a clean-ish tone when rolled back.  Due to being at a place where the strings vibrate in a wider arc, the timbre is shifted down a bit, because the upper harmonics are tapered, and there is greater low frequency content.  This and how neck pickups are usually not wound to be hot, create the conditions which soften the sound and give the opportunity for it to become much cleaner.

I’m sure there are other things, but these are the one’s I’ve been working on at present.  I hope this has been helpful.


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